outdoor education

Autumn Days at Our Country Campus

It’s our last autumn week out at our country classroom at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Here are a few fall highlights . . .

  • Preschoolers made their first visit. Photos on social media of their first venture into fort building inspired nostalgic comments from high school alums; one commented, “Wow. I feel sad since I don’t go outside at all during the school day. Really took that stuff for granted.”

  • Kindergarten students explored the woods and used tools to find evidence of the types of creatures who live there. After a discussion and a vote, they chose rabbits and worms as subjects to study more in depth.

  • Primary Unit learned all about trees — the parts of the tree, how to identify different types of trees, the role of chlorophyll, and more — while also taking time and to build forts, play games, and explore the space.

  • Third grade investigated properties of seeds — focusing on how and why seeds disperse.

  • Junior Unit learned practical skills like using a compass and orienteering.  Students even had an opportunity to meet and work with Greg Ahlswede, a local orienteering champion and current coach of the junior national team.

  • Sixth graders made connections between what they observed happening to sediments and other land materials at the Schuylkill Center with the large-scale version of the same processes that formed Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

  • Seventh grade students studied the concepts of ratio and proportion. They were photographed at the Schuylkill Center in front of structures they built, and they then used the photos to compare structure heights.

  • Eighth graders created a live-action theme-based role play at different ponds at the Center. They also had guided lessons with Center educators about macro-invertebrates in ponds and learned how they help indicate pond health. 

It has been a fun and meaningful fall season at the Schuylkill Center, and we look forward to reconnecting with this beautiful natural site in the spring.


Meet Our Garden Educator

By Bri Barton, Garden Educator at TPS

I have been teaching in gardens and farms in Philly since 2012. Gardens are a powerful environment to talk about a wide range of subjects including, ecology, biology, health and nutrition, food justice, worker’s rights, racial justice, immigration and diaspora, history and art. Gardens are also great places to relax, meditate, unwind, regain focus and clarity, and get grounded.

I work primarily with the preschool and kindergarten classes, but this fall I will co-teach a Middle School intensive on botanical illustration with Neesa Becker-Procaccino. I am also teaching a gardening club this fall.

When I’m not growing food with kids, I work as an artist and freelance illustrator. Currently I am a part of two collaborative, educational art projects – Philadelphia Assembled and Water Ways – which may be of interest to you.   

Philadelphia Assembled is an expansive project that tells a story of radical community building and active resistance through the personal and collective narratives that make up Philadelphia’s changing urban fabric. Challenging, inspiring, and as big as the city, Philadelphia Assembled asks: how can we collectively shape our futures?

I have been a part of this project for the last two years, mostly as an image maker. I am one of the lead artists who created  a 140' collaborative mural that runs the length of the Perelman Building! The mural is part map, part timeline, part storytelling. In so many ways this is a dream come true.

The museum phase of Philadelphia Assembled opens September 9 in the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition runs through December 10. If you are interested in Philadelphia, art, indigenous rights, Afro futurism, land and economic sovereignty, gentrification, mass incarceration, immigration or LGBTQ rights from a contemporary or historical lens, this show might be up your alley! (Oh, and it’s free!)

Water Ways is a series of illustrations telling the story of water and the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the surrounding area. Meg Lemieur and I have been working on this project since the end of 2016. The first illustration, which will be printed on 10'x13' fabric for educational presentations and performances, will be completed by fall of 2017. The illustrations will also be printed poster size for fundraising efforts to support local pipeline resistance camps.  

Eco-Shelter Models Balance Form + Function

Seventh graders worked on a cardboard and paper model project that connected to this year's all-school theme -- ”Surviving and Thriving in the City Country Classroom.”

Each student selected a biome in which to design a realistic shelter. Students researched their biome and planned their model in two dimensions, including thought to scale, food production, weather, and ecological sustainability. From their detailed plans, they built a three-dimensional model. This project was a joint, interdisciplinary endeavor by the seventh grade art and science teachers.

Shelly Ridge Is the Place to Be

Shelly Ridge Day could not have been more wonderful! The setting was serene and beautiful, the weather was mild and sunny, and the family group activities were fun and varied. 

Returning to our school's former country classroom was a delight for our veteran faculty and staff, though the Junior Unit garden seemed long abandoned!  Everyone – from kindergarteners to long-time staff – enjoyed spending the day outdoors together.

7th Grade Farmers

Heritage Farm, located on the campus of the Methodist Home for Children (MHC), supplies vegetables and herbs to several high-end restaurants in Philadelphia. It is five acres, including greenhouses and a pavilion. When we arrived at the farm on Tuesday, we met the manager, Adrian Galbraith-Paul. He explained the farm’s mission, which is to provide quality food for the residents of MHC and for the local community, as well as to "grow farmers" in providing career training. We also met the other workers on the farm – Sophia, Matt, and Troy.

Because of the season, we did not see much greenery outside of the greenhouses, but there were bee boxes, blackberry and raspberry plants, radishes, and wild onions.